Highway 1 Discovery Route
The very best of California is yours for the taking.
Imagine the road trip of your life, gliding past uncrowded beaches and wine grapes ripening in the sun. California dreaming? Think again.
Highway 1 is the most iconic roadway in California, but not all sections are created equal. The length that passes along the coast through San Luis Obispo County (known as SLO CAL) brims with the best of the Highway 1 experience. And as the gateway to Big Sur, this SLO CAL stretch is well within reach.
What sets us apart? One-hundred miles of Pacific coastline, half of which are protected. A national marine sanctuary and a national estuary. Thirteen state parks. An elephant seal rookery and Monarch butterfly preserves. A Scenic Byway designation from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Two historic lighthouses and five historic piers. The only drivable beach in California. Centuries-old forests. Hundreds of acres of coastal vineyards. Uncrowded white sand beaches. History and heritage at every turn with nine locales on the National Register. And Hearst Castle, a hilltop beauty that is a State and National Historic Landmark.
And that’s just the beginning.
Bury your toes in the sand and get to know the locals. Indulge in farm-fresh and ocean-fresh cuisine, and wines from family-owned vineyards. Glimpse abundant wildlife and historic wonders, all in the comfort of a laid-back culture and picture-perfect climate.
Want to plan the road trip of a lifetime? Follow your curiosity to our SLO CAL stretch of Highway 1, and let the wonder begin.
Roadtrip of a LIfetime
Design your itinerary for spontaneous pull-overs, spectacular sunsets and lots of family fun.
What sets this stretch of Highway 1 apart?
- 57 miles of historic highway, just begging to be explored
- 100 miles of Pacific coastline, complete with miles of hiking and biking trails
- 50 miles of protected coastline ― the most in all of California
- A “scenic byway” designation by the U.S. Department of Transportation
- A National Marine Sanctuary
- A National Estuary, which is home to over 300 species of birds
- 13 State Parks featuring untouched beaches; breathtaking scenery; rare close-ups of wildlife; centuries-old trees; a castle; and drivable dunes
- An elephant seal rookery – one of the few left in California
- A Monarch butterfly preserve, a destination of over 25,000 migrating butterflies annually
- Five piers – all walkable and fish-able ― one is even drivable
- Two historic lighthouses offering docent-led walks, kayak tours, and history
- Hearst Castle, a National and California Historical Landmark
- Miles of spacious white sand beaches
- 10 Whale Trail locations ― the most of any county in California
- A coastal wine region, home to boutique, award-winning wine producers
- The only drivable beach in California, the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Area
- Nine historic places on the National Register, ready to satisfy your curiosity
Get to know our beach towns and vineyard-framed villages.
Ragged Point on Highway 1
The Cliff With The Million-Dollar View
Ragged Point is known as “the million-dollar view” for good reason: natural splendor abounds here at the gateway to Big Sur. Look down on the dramatic coastline, where waves crash on the rocky shore. Pull off this Scenic Byway for a cliffside hike down to a scenic waterfall and stay for the sunset. Or follow your bliss to the landmark Ragged Point Inn for anything from an ice cream cone to a multicourse dinner ― with a view, of course.
Don’t forget that the drive to and from Ragged Point is an attraction all its own. Complete with secret beaches and remote ranches, this cinematic stretch of Highway 1 is considered one of the most breathtaking drives in the world.
Enchanted Castles and Wondrous Wildlife
William Randolph Hearst put San Simeon on the map in 1919 with “La Cuesta Encantada,” otherwise known as Heart Castle. His spectacular hilltop estate once catered to movie stars and dignitaries; today, the sprawling property welcomes visitors as a museum and state park.
But luxury and opulence are just one side of San Simeon. Witness the majesty of this part of the Morro Bay National Marine Sanctuary, including an historic lighthouse. Get to know a migrating herd of Northern Elephant Seals, up-close and personal. Or bask in the dappled sunlight of William Randolph State Beach, a protected cove surrounding a historic pier and quiet waters.
The Cozy Seaside Escape
”Quaint” doesn’t begin to describe this coastal hamlet, where antique shops and cafes line the street. Reminiscent of a New England village, Cambria invites you to hunt for moonstones and sea glass on the beach, or sit down to a juicy slice of olallieberry pie. The town also boasts one of the largest herds of Clydesdale horses in the nation, and you can book a ride. Savor the season with the annual scarecrow festival or a German-style Christmas market that lights up the town beneath the pines. Or embark on a history walk through Cambria’s streets, full of stories and well-preserved architectural treasures.
Good Tides and Good Vibes
Here, surfers catch picture-perfect waves beside a historic pier and kids build sandcastles under the sun. Cayucos is all about good vibes, whether at lunch in a sea captain’s historic home or streetside for an epic 4th of July celebration. Shop for the perfect surfboard, built by a local craftsman, or walk the six miles of white sand beach to Morro Rock. However you get to know Cayucos, leave time to slow down and soak up the sun.
Los Osos & Baywood
Mother Nature’s Playground
With hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails, Montana de Oro State Park anchors the sister towns of Los Osos and Baywood.
The sister towns of Los Osos and Baywood collaborate to make magic by the sea, encouraging visitors to linger longer. Dine on fresh fare, then amble to the pier to watch the sun tuck behind the horizon. Kayak past an oyster farm in the Morro Bay National Estuary, then hit the links at a coastal golf course.
But whatever you do on this easygoing section of Highway 1, don’t miss Montana de Oro State Park, which anchors it all. Find hiking, biking and equestrian trails here, plus beaches, local history, and ocean views that seem to never end.
Pick Your Perfect Paradise
Looking for a small, family-friendly beach town with something for everyone? Hit up Avila Beach, a sweet coastal city with more than its fair share of attractions.
Here, the shoreline faces a boardwalk flanked with unique shopping, wine tasting, and dining options. Enjoy sun and fun on the white sand beach, and grab a shaved ice when it’s time to cool down. In the mood for a quiet walk? Take a paved trail directly to the beach, under a canopy of sycamore trees. Or maybe you’d rather drive: cruise the drivable pier, or drive golf balls at the nearby oceanfront course. Apple lovers will delight in vast apple orchards, open for tastings in a pretty country canyon. And history buffs will want to see a working lighthouse dating from 1890, tucked into the folds of a coastal hillside.
Oceano & Nipomo
Authentic and Action-Packed
At the southernmost end of San Luis Obispo County’s stretch of Highway 1, the rubber meets the road…and the sand! Off-road enthusiasts cruise to the State Park in Oceano to hit the only drivable beach in California. In Nipomo, the finest barbecue in the West cooks low and slow over red oak coals, the same way it has for centuries. Picturesque golf courses await novice players and experts alike, and a professional theater stages old-timey melodramas for plenty of laughs. Want in on the action? All you need to pack is your sense of adventure.
Edna Valley & Arroyo Grande Valley
Village Charm And Coastal Wines
The past is alive and well ― and as charming as ever ― just four miles from Highway 1. Walk the Village of Arroyo Grande, lined with boutique shops, dining, and historic landmarks open to the public. Or take a country drive to the Old Edna Townsite, once known for its saloon, artists and wild parties. For a zipline, ropes course, fishing and water play, head to Lopez Lake and soak up the fun. And for wine-lovers, taste through the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys, some of California’s only coastal wine regions, just four miles from Pismo Beach.
Your next adventure awaits
NOTICE: In light of rapid developments related to COVID-19, please contact individual event organizers to confirm the current status of a particular event.
- All-You-Can-Eat Gourmet Pizza at Cambria Pines LodgeMarch 06 to May 29, 2020More DetailsCambriaEnjoy an evening outdoors with delicious food, live music, yard games and more.
- Mindfulness Meditation at SLO Botanical Garden via ZOOMApril 15 to August 26, 2020More DetailsSan Luis ObispoThis class will support you and help you stay vital during these uncertain times
- More DetailsAvila BeachCome to Avila Beach for Independence Day and spending your morning enjoying a pancake breakfast and doggie parade.
- San Simeon State Park and WR Hearst Memorial Beach Clean-UpSeptember 19, 2020More DetailsSan SimeonEach year during California Coastal Clean-Up Day in mid-September, the Coastal Discovery Center organizes public participation in the San Simeon Bay's beach clean-up
Plan Your Trip
Ready to design a vacation to remember? We can’t wait to see you here.
NOTICE: In light of rapid developments related to COVID-19, please contact individual establishments to determine their current status.
Where To Stay
Find Your Haven
This wonder-filled stretch of Highway 1 offers a wide variety of lodging options to ensure that your stay is an enjoyable one. Choose from oceanfront property, vineyard views, family-friendly suites and private retreats. Whether you’re looking for a historic inn, vacation rental or budget hotel, the Highway 1 Discovery Route promises to provide a comfortable hideaway.
Where To Eat
Bring An Appetite
Dining on this stretch reveals our embarrassment of riches, from farm to sea. Taste seafood straight from the waves, produce dewey from the morning’s harvest, and bread still warm from the oven. From tacos in Oceano to oysters in Cambria, barbecue in Nipomo to apple pie in Avila Beach, we’ve got great taste. What’s more? We’re more than happy to share. So pull up a chair, fill your glass, and settle in for what’s sure to be a delicious stay.
Let our stretch of Highway 1 astound you. Start the day off-roading on the dunes and finish with a glass of wine and vineyard view. Build sandcastles one hour and witness the decadence of a real-life castle the next. Watch whales dance offshore, then dance like a local at a street festival. The rewards are great in our neck of the woods, and they’re all yours for the taking.